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The Canada Reads team explains why their book will appeal to Canadians

Congratulations to jelena_33, the second winner of a great Canada Reads prize pack. She scored signed copies of all five books and an always fashionable and extremely practical Canada Reads tote bag. We're giving away another set this week. Keep reading to find out how you can win!


Our celebrity panelists will be standing up for their favourite read in the February debates, but the Canada Reads team is ready to start right now. Five of our producers have chosen to go to bat for their favourite Canada Reads 2012 title. Each week, they will make a case for why their book is the best.

But why should we have all the fun? You can get involved too — and just by jumping into the fray, you get a chance to win a Canada Reads prize pack. We're giving one away every week. To enter, see what our team has to say about their book of choice, then answer the question at the bottom of the post for a chance to win.

The debate about what makes a book Canadian is in high gear. Terry Fallis even tackled it earlier this week. But what about this year's contenders will appeal to our national sensibility? The team answers this question below!


Adrian defends The Game by Ken Dryden

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Quick! Name three things that come to mind when you think about what Canadians are most passionate about.

OK, look at your list.

I'm betting most of you have listed hockey as one of your three choices (maybe along with universal health care and not being American).

What is it about this sport that inspires such devotion and debate among our fellow citizens? Even many non-fans can't help but get sucked into the drama when there's a Stanley Cup final (especially between a Canadian and U.S. team) or an international game against our historic Russian rivals. On these occasions, I've seen quiet, reserved people who normally prefer to spend their evenings with a cup of chamomile and a novel morph into Gollum-like creatures that jump up and cheer exuberantly with every goal scored and shout abuse at the television set for every missed save.

There are other sports with deep roots in this country: basketball, lacrosse and Canadian football being a few examples. But no sport (or any other activity, really) has come close to capturing the national imagination like hockey.

Maybe it's because hockey is an aggressive game, played on ice, where skill, cunning and teamwork matter more than sheer power. It sounds like how Canadians would like to see themselves: a hearty nation that's often faced with bigger rivals, but always determined to play strong and leave it all on the ice.

Or maybe, we love it simply because it's fun. And the excitement and unity we feel being part of this sport isn't much different from how kids love the game. This passage from Ken Dryden's The Game, about his childhood experiences playing outdoors with his friends, sums it up well:

"Bodies grew warm from exertion, fingers and toes went numb; noses ran, wiped by unconscious sleeves; coats loosened, tuques fell off; steam puffed from mouths and streamed from tuqueless heads. Sticks hacked and slashed; tennis balls stung. But in the euphoria of the game, the pain disappeared."

The euphoria of the game.



Nicole defends On a Cold Road by Dave Bidini

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Music is as much a part of our Canadian landscape as the Great Lakes or Rocky Mountains. Think about it: what's a Canadian summer without The Tragically Hip? Or a road trip without Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railroad Trilogy? I know I've shed a tear or two to Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell. And I've definitely had some memorable moments at concerts in venues big and small with my nearest and dearest.

That's why On a Cold Road is the most Canadian. It honours the music that makes up our national identity. Even if your favourite Canadian song isn't mentioned in the book, I bet the artist who wrote it has gone through similar experiences to the ones described by Dave Bidini and the legendary musicians he interviewed.

On top of that, what's more Canadian than a book about people travelling around Canada? When the Rheostatics joined The Tragically Hip on tour they went EVERYWHERE. On a Cold Road is a cross-Canada tour from the comfort of your own couch.



Barb defends Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat

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First, to the suggestion that the Canada Reads winner needs to be the most "Canadian" — whatever that might be, in a country of tremendous diversity — I say, bah, humbug! Are we really so parochial (and so earnest)? As readers — heck, as human beings — we're citizens of the world. But just to tweak the question slightly, why should Marina Nemat's Prisoner of Tehran matter more to Canadians than the other books?

For one thing, it's both timely and universal. Though Marina's imprisonment and torture took place in the 1980s, not much has changed: authorities in Iran and other Arab countries deal harshly with any opposition and political dissidents are still routinely imprisoned and mistreated. Sadly infamous case in point: Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, who died after being tortured and beaten while detained in the very same prison, in 2003. And of course there are the events of the Arab Spring, whose repercussions are still unfolding. There's nothing dated about this story: it has relevance for the headlines of today's world.

As for universality: the story of Marina's arrest, imprisonment and eventual release is rooted in the age-old struggle between right and might, with human values like courage, compassion and resilience pitted against cruelty and oppression.

Ultimately Prisoner of Tehran is tremendously inspiring: a kind of beacon for anyone who has ever felt discouraged or defeated or overwhelmed. (Is there anyone who hasn't ever felt any of those things?) I don't think it's possible to read this book without being deeply affected — and it has certainly changed my perspective on the challenges in my own life. What more can you ask of a book?



Debbie defends Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre

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Something Fierce isn't about Canada's national game, or Canadian rock stars. But it's just as Canadian. Many of us are from somewhere else, with a story attached to where we came from.

In this sense, Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre is very similar to one of its competitors, Marina Nemat's Prisoner of Tehran.

In Carmen's case, she immigrated to Canada as a six-year-old refugee. She returned to South America to live as a revolutionary and ended up back in Canada when the movement dissolved.

Something Fierce is also a story about how many of us have an interest in and ties to elsewhere — whether we were born in Canada or not.

It's about being a global citizen before that term became a catch phrase.

Of course, there's Carmen and her description of the Vancouver Chilean community in the '70s and '80s and their concern with what's happening in Chile and the rest of South America.

Then there's Carmen's step-father, Bob Everton, a character in her memoir and life who's described as an "internationalist."

Not only did Bob fight for aboriginal rights and the elimination of poverty in Canada, but he was also a Canadian invested in what happened in other parts of the world.

He was in Chile during the 1973 coup by dictator Pinochet and was held in one of the stadiums used to detain and torture leftists. He helped ensure Canada was one of the first "First World" countries to accept Chileans as refugees. Then, he went back to South America with Carmen and the rest of her family to join the underground revolution.

You don't have to be a Chilean-Canadian to get something from this story. Like Bob, many of us want to know about stories from elsewhere that tell us something about the people we live with here.



Alison defends The Tiger by John Vaillant

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True, there are no tigers in the wilds of Canada. True, The Tiger is set almost entirely in Russia, and is about a Russian tiger and Russian hunters. But John Vaillant's epic wilderness thriller has themes that will certainly resonate with plenty of Canadians. The majority of this book is set in near-freezing, snowy forests — something we've got plenty of on this side of Alaska, too!

Canada is a country with an incredibly varied and vast physical landscape and a significant population of wild animals (a bear — or a moose, for that matter — is every bit as terrifying as a tiger if you're face to face with one!) As Canadians, our relationship with the natural and animal world is complicated and varied, depending on where in the country we live — and even if our reliance on natural resources isn't obvious in our day-to-day life (for those of us who live in, say, urban centres), it is still a crucial part of our cultural identity.

Russian life, as portrayed by Vaillant in The Tiger, takes this reliance on natural resources to extremes, and the hand-to-mouth desperation of citizens who live off the land is a theme that is certainly familiar to any Canadian who has so much as glanced at a history book (or the news, for that matter).



Ready to win a Canada Reads prize pack? Weigh our defenders' arguments and and decide for yourself which one makes the strongest case. Then answer the following question in the comments below:

What makes a book "Canadian" literature?

The deadline for entries is midnight ET on Thursday, December 15. The complete rules and regulations are here. Good luck!

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